LINCOLN (ruefully). Not so much as I’d like to, Noctah. The books are so few that it’s just learning by littles. [Footnote: Lincoln’s own words.]
Other people much talk. Lincoln heap silent: heap thinking. (Taps
forehead.) Other people try to cheat Indian. Lincoln heap honest.
Oh, come now, Noctah. I guess we’re all pretty honest hereabout.
[A pause, during which Lincoln stares at the fire, above his book.
Lincoln look at fire. See visions of future.
There won’t be any future if I don’t work for it!
[Smokes pipe: a silence.
(after a moment or so, looking up).
Anything I can do for you, Noctah?
No. Noctah want nothing.
[Another short silence. Noctah smokes. Lincoln studies. Then Noctah moves towards door.
LINCOLN (looking up).
Going, Noctah? You know you’re welcome to stay if you want to. (Noctah
continues impassively towards door.) Well, then, good-night.
[A moment later there comes the sound of Francois’ fiddle, and the same gay group breaks into the room, augmented by Jason and Lucy Brown. They surround Lincoln, who has risen.
Now, Abe, you know you like a husking better than anything else.
Better than most things, Tom; but not better than all.
[Looks toward his books.
Come On, Abe, it’s no fun without you.
Not to-night, Jason.
You’ll miss ze husking, Abe.
I know that, Francois; but then I’ll gain—so much else! (Looks again
towards his beloved books.) There’s husking to do there, Francois.
You’ll be sitting here all lonely, without any friends.
(with one of his rare smiles).
Without any friends—! Why, Nancy!
[Glances towards his books for a third time.
(with a sniff).
He means that he’d rather have Defoe and Bunyan and Aesop than us.
You would. You know you would.
Then you’re not coming?
LINCOLN. No, boys, I’m not coming. I tell you, it’s like splitting rails. Once you get tired or give up, your work gets the better of you. I mean to stick to what I’ve set out to do.
Well, then, good-night, Abe.
LINCOLN (with the utmost friendliness). Good-night. Good-night. (With a general stir and in the midst of a chorus of leave-taking, he sees them to the door.) Watch your lantern, Amy. Good-night. Good-night, all.